Daedalus: Glorious Playing on Glorious Instruments

Monday, October 3, 2005

The members of the Daedalus Quartet are clearly first-rate musicians. Their program at the Library of Congress on Friday -- Prokofiev's First String Quartet, Haydn's Quartet Op. 33, No. 1, and (with guest violist Donald Weilerstein) Mozart's String Quintet K. 593 -- was dashed off with such security, technical finish, interpretive unity and sheer gusto it sounded as if these young string players had somehow been performing these works together for a good 50 or 60 years.

But clearly, the instruments they were playing didn't hurt matters either. When the musicians spoke after intermission of their acquaintances with these instruments feeling like intense love affairs, it was no small wonder. The recital featured a splendid array of 17th- and 18th-century Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri instruments from the library's collection, all of them sweetly incisive in their upper reaches, mellow and resonant in the middle, and boasting rich carrying power at the bottom.

The cannily selected program showed three composers' takes on emotional ambivalence. Mozart's Quintet is so suffused with sunlight and serenity that fleeting moments of despair are quickly subsumed back into the glow. Haydn plays his usual musical sleight of hand, making 180-degree mood swings, sometimes within a single phrase. And Prokofiev manages the trick of being, at once, buoyant and uneasy, wry and tragic, aloof and heartfelt. The Daedalus members were so at-one with their composers, we were happily caught off-guard by every emotional surprise they sprang.

-- Joe Banno

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